UNDP joins hands with the government and private sector to promote gender responsive commercial advertising in Nepal

December 27, 2022
Group photo


As a part of its ongoing efforts to integrate and promote gender across all sectors, UNDP organized a consultative workshop with Nepal’s private sector on the prospects of gender responsive commercial advertising in Nepal.

The program organized in partnership with the Advertisement Board Nepal—the government body working to regulate advertisement in Nepali advertisement market—aimed at sensitizing advertisement agencies to create more gender responsive advertisements so that gender stereotypes are not reinforced knowingly or unknowingly through their advertisement. The consultative meeting brought together representatives of the government bodies concerned and all renowned advertising agencies working in Nepal’s advertisement sector for the past several decades.

Chairperson of Advertisement Board Nepal

Addressing the programme, Chairperson of Advertisement Board Laxman Humagain said that commercial advertisement in today’s world cannot afford to overlook gender issues, from both commercial and social lens. He argued that creative agencies need to take the gender issue seriously and the Board is fully committed to make that happen. “As a regulatory body, the Board has the authority to ban ads that are not following the ad code. We have in fact banned a number of ads that were found gender insensitive. We take actions in response to individual complaints or based on our own observations.” Humagain also promised to provide necessary support, including training and orientations, to make Nepal’s ad industry gender responsive.

Binda Magar, Governance Advisor & Assistant Resident Representative at UNDP Nepal, highlighted the need to make the advertising sector gender sensitive as behavior of people is largely influenced by what they see in the media. “We are pleased to join hands with the Advertisement Board and Nepal's top creative directors in the advertisement industry in this campaign. Together we can work towards more gender responsive ads to break gender stereotypes,” she said. Sharing an anecdote about how children internalize what they see at home or in the media, she argued that ads can play a crucial role in nurturing or subverting conventional gender roles.

Moderating the discussion, Kamal Raj Sigdel, Head of Communications at UNDP Nepal, called on the ad industry to see the possibility of integrating gender into core business principles. “Today, gender-responsive advertising makes good business sense. This is particularly true in today’s world of social media and information technology when most of the audience or consumers are fully informed of universal norms such as gender, environment and human rights. Any ad incompatible with these universal values is not going to do well in a free market,” said Sigdel.

Gender expert Vandana Sinha presented an independent perspective on the status of Nepal’s ad industry from a gender lens. “Nepal’s ad industry has an opportunity to transform itself to support a positive social change. We should be able to go beyond the binary concept. To divide everything in binary opposition is in itself a gendered one. Creative agencies in particular should be able to touch on the void that exists between two binary oppositions,” she said.

Sharing the private sector perspective, Chairperson of one of the leading ad agencies, Full Circle Nepal, Sonna Amatya argued that things have already started changing and there is much that can be done to create gender responsive advertisements in Nepal. “We have come a long way and we have a little further to go,” said Amatya, while sharing how advertisements in Nepal have changed since 1990 if seen from the gender lens. “We need smart men and women who believe in equality to promote next generation advertisements. We can do it.”

During the discussions, speakers also urged to look at the private sector as what they are: a profit-making business and that they have limitations to work on social agenda. “We will have to look at what sells in the market and what our client is looking for,” said Harshawardhan Shahani, CEO & Founder, V-Chitra Advertising.

Following group discussions and presentations, the meeting came up with a few recommendations and a way forward. First, it was underscored that the Advertisement Board and UNDP could play an important role in building the ad industry’s understanding on gender responsive ads so that more companies and ad agencies would be motivated to create responsive ads. This would require a series of dedicated training and orientations to the creative professionals working in the industry.

Second, the participants also highlighted the need to increase investment in research work to assess the effectiveness and impact of gender-responsive ads as compared to regular advertisements.

Third, the workshop realized the need to review the existing ad code more closely to see if there are any reforms necessary to ensure it complies with the UN's global principles on gender equality and is more practical and effective.

Fourth, the workshop underscored the need for making special provisions to incentivize and recognize the best gender-responsive commercial advertisements.

Fifth and the last, it was realized that the ad stakeholders should continue the conversation to share and exchange new knowledge and experience in the areas of gender-responsive advertising.